Parasites are organisms that feed off a host and can sometimes be dangerous to humans by causing disease. One of the most impactful to human health is the strain of Plasmodium, the culprit of malaria. This disease is spread through mosquitoes carrying the parasite which brings about a number of severe physical symptoms, often leading to death. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates malaria was responsible for 409,000 deaths in 2019, but current treatments for parasitic infections are becoming more ineffective due to drug resistance, creating a need for novel approaches.
Scientists at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) have identified a compound that may be suitable for treatment against a number of different parasites, including the ones which cause malaria. The inspiration for this approach actually came from cancer research, where a similar drug has been successfully used in chemotherapy.
The molecule works by targeting a protein called tubulin, which is found in many organisms including humans as is essential for cells to multiply. Though what makes this treatment clever is it specifically targets the parasite’s tubulin, causing only negative effects to these invading species.
The group that made this breakthrough discovery of parasite-tubulin (parabulin) treatment has plans to continue testing the drug in the laboratory to ensure its safety and effectiveness. Once these have been confirmed, the treatment may have real life-saving applications across the world.
Source study: EMBO Molecular Medicine – Inhibiting parasite proliferation using a rationally designed anti-tubulin agent